Chin Chin might remain restaurateur Chris Lucas’s calling card, but that packed-out Melbourne hideaway – which expanded to Sydney last year – is just one corner of the dynasty. The Lucas Group has minted a stable of casually cool eateries spanning many international cuisines, including Baby Pizza, Kong BBQ and Hawker Hall. His next big step is bringing Sydney’s celebrated bistro Sepia to Melbourne.
Any successful restaurateur has done their travelling. When asked for his best places to dine in Europe, Lucas returned with a passionate round of favourites – from island seafood and canal-side lunch, to French farmhouses and local produce.
So when planning a European trip, mark these in the diary.
Solymar – Mykonos, Greece
If you’re heading to the Greek islands, don’t pass up the reliable sun-and-sea hotspot of Mykonos. Lucas recommends this flagship gem of Kalo Livadi Beach. “This is one of the best restaurants on the entire island,” he says. “The fish is amazing.” Also be sure to sample the unique “Greek sushi”, pairing spinach and rice with marinated codfish and other delicate seafood.
The Gritti Terrace – Venice, Italy
Situated directly against Venice’s Grand Canal in the luxury hotel The Gritti Palace, this is stunning al-fresco dining at its best. But the menu is just as appealing as the sublime surrounds. “This is such a cool place for lunch,” says Lucas. “The food is relaxed and delicious, and the view, well, it speaks for itself.” Lucas singles out the fish carpaccio and fresh ravioli with fromaggi as particular dishes to seek out.
Rivea at Byblos – Saint-Tropez, France
A jewel on the French Riviera, Saint-Tropez is worth the 90-minute drive from Nice. Long a destination for its beaches and nightlife, Saint-Tropez also boasts food lures worth travelling for says Lucas. A favourite is chef Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the Byblos Hotel, which takes inspiration from both French and Italian cuisine that’s designed around seasonal ingredients from local farmers. Lucas’s personal pick for stand-out dish? “The summer vegetable salad,” he says.
Conca del Sogno – Nerano, Italy
Only open during the summer months and only accessible by boat, the small fishing village of Nerano in Italy is highly deserving of the trip if you can make it from the nearby hubs of Capri, Nice or Positano. Lucas calls the village’s long-running, family-restaurant Conca Del Sogno, “one of the best and most beautiful restaurants on the Amalfi Coast”. With a deck that juts out from the cliffside over the emerald Nerano Bay, the view itself is satisfying enough. But Lucas also raves about the pasta zucchini, pasta vongole and sea bass baked in salt crust.
Restaurant Troisgros – Ouches, France
Ouches is a nearly-four-hour drive south of Paris, but that’s more reason to stay the night at this former farmhouse, now restaurant and boutique accommodation. “Book into the hotel and enjoy one the greatest dining experiences in the world,” says Lucas, who’s pick is the duck in red burgundy sauce. “This is one of the most outstanding three-star Michelin experiences in France,” he says. “Spare no expense.”
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